Jan 24, 2014 1:32 AM by Maddie Garrett

"City for Champions" Project Gets Bashed at Public Meeting

The City for Champions project took quite a few hits at a public meeting Thursday night, although a panel of city leaders mostly defended it, citing economic growth. The meeting gave taxpayers a chance to sound off publicly on City for Champions, and people opposed to it had a lot to say at the meeting.

In fact, News 5 had a hard time finding anybody, who doesn't have a vested interest in the project, to say they actually support City for Champions.

The public meeting is called Community Conversation. But the conversation quickly turned to questions, concerns and outright dislike from the audience on City for Champions

"If anything this is a propaganda, a puppet stage for people to get up there and spew off what they think about City for Champions to railroad it down the throats of voters. And I don't think it's working, we saw a lot of feedback tonight," said Mark Slaugh, of the community group Every Vote Counts.

Several people stood up at the meeting and voiced their upset over the cost of the project and how it will be paid for.

"I have very deep financial questions about the financial legitimacy of this, whether it's sustainable," said John Hawk after the meeting.

Another attendee, Lindsay Deen, said she was still uncertain about City for Champions, even after the public meeting.

"My biggest issue is that there's not enough information out there in order for us to look at it and say yes this is a good idea, or oh no this is not a good idea," she said.

City for Champions comes with a hefty price tag, the total cost over 30 years to taxpayers comes out to about $350 million. Councilman Joel Miller breaks down the cost like this:

City Sales Tax Incremental Financing (STIF) $32.5 million, the cost of financing that over 30 years totals to $84.1 million
County STIF of $16.8 million, cost of financing over 30 years adds up to $42.1 million
Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority bonds of $48.7 million, cost of financing totals $123.6 million
Parking Enterprise bonds of $29.5 million, financing over 30 years equals $74.8 million
Municipal bonds of $10 million, plus financing would total $25.4 million

"To build four projects we may or may not need, or may or may not help? It's a huge gamble with taxpayer dollars that we're not willing to take," said Slaugh of the costs.

The current plan doesn't raise any new taxes, it takes money from existing tax dollars and funds. But taking that much money for City for Champions could divert money from other city projects, such as storm water or infrastructure.

But City for Champions does have a lot of support from the Regional Business Alliance and tourism leaders, as well as business owners. Linda Weise sat on the panel as a local business owner, she's the Founder and Executive Director of the Colorado Springs Conservatory. She argued that City for Champions is worth it and could bring growth, revenue and prosperity to the region.

"Now's our opportunity to be champions, champion this incredible vision, champion this opportunity, and champion all that it will bring to the region," she said.

Many people at the meeting, including panelist and City Councilman Andy Pico, were recommending that City for Champions go before the voters to decide on. But as the plan stands now, the Mayor and project leaders don't have to put it on the ballot because it doesn't raise any new taxes.

The only thing that would change that is if city leaders seek the $10 million municipal bond, then it would have to be voted on. Currently that's not part of the final funding plan, but it hasn't been ruled out completely either.

City for Champions includes four proposed projects for Colorado Springs, an Olympic museum, sports and events center, sports medicine and performance center at UCCS and a new Air Force Academy Visitor Center.

Project leaders believe that the new venues would bring in more than 1 million new visitors to the Colorado Springs area each year and generate $7 billion in new retail sales. Proponents also say it should garner $300 million in new local sales tax in the next 30 years and create more than 700 permanent new jobs, along with 300 construction jobs.

The State did pledge $120 million over the next 30 years as well through the Regional Tourism Act. That money comes with the stipulation that the projects are started in the next 5 years and completed within 10 years.



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